The history of the Wieliczka Salt Mine is very rich. This is not surprising, since salt mining continued uninterruptedly from the Middle Ages until 1964. However, let’s start at the beginning. Where did the salt come from in the first place? In prehistoric times, the area was covered by the sea. Then geological processes did their job and crystallised salt mixed with other minerals, sand and silt to form a deposit near Krakow.
Interestingly, salt was already being extracted in this area in the Neolithic period. It was not extracted from underground in the form of lumps, but was obtained by brewing brine found on the surface. The presence of brine led to the suspicion that there might be more of this white wealth hidden underground. In the Middle Ages, the first nuggets of rock salt were encountered and so began the more than 700-year history of the mine.
Interestingly, Wieliczka Salt Mine has been a tourist destination since the 15th century! The first route for visitors was marked out as early as in the 19th century, i.e. while it was still in active operation.
Wieliczka – Daniłowicz Shaft
You must know that salt was very expensive during the Middle Ages. All because it was a food preservative, so you could not do without it. Let’s remember that at that time the world had not yet seen a fridge 😉 In the times of Casimir the Great, a kilogram of salt was worth almost as much as a kilogram of gold. It was therefore safe to refer to salt as white gold. Thanks to the salt mines near Krakow, our country was able to develop rapidly, and thanks to the considerable income to the treasury, King Casimir the Great was able to leave Poland in brick, after having found it in wood. It is estimated that the revenue from the salt mines accounted for about one third of all state income.